Part 45 - Skaal Village

When Diablita rejoined them, fading back into full solidity, a glow of magical armour, unlike anything Clark had seen before, had formed around her. It was as if she was wearing a suit of dragonplate, but made out of light.

"Did you kill him? Is Miraak dead?" Frea demanded.

"Miraak is dead," Diablita onfirmed. She reached into her pack and pulled out a mask, robe and various weapons. They were of a design that neither Clark nor Frea had seen before. "These were Miraak's. I suggest we put them on display in the Greathall, as a monument to Storn, who defeated him as much as I did."

"And what's that you're wearing?" Clark wanted to know.

"This is Dragon Aspect. I was right about it working better for me than for him. And the Bloodskal blade made up for his stealing dragon souls to regenerate. But I didn't get to kill him myself. When Hermaeus Mora saw that his defeat was inevitable, he finished him off for me. Skewered him with a tentacle, absorbed his body, and dropped the skeleton. I don't like to think what that felt like!"

Frea had been concentrating on something else. "I can confirm it. The Tree Stone is free, and the Oneness of the land is restored. But that just brings us back to where we were before Miraak's intervention, and we've lost Storn and our secrets."

"You haven't lost the secrets," Clark pointed out. "They're just a little less secret, which might be a good thing anyway. Anything important shouldn't be a secret, it should be shared."

"They were shared among the Skaal, of course," Frea agreed. "And that's why they aren't lost to us, as you just reminded me. Perhaps you have a point, but did it really need my father to die, to get it across?"

Frea warned Diablita that her contact with Hermaeus Mora put her on the same path as Miraak before her. "Do not get tempted to follow it."

"I won't," Diablita assured her. "But I will get a second opinion from Master Neloth. We'll be going back that way, won't we, Clark?"

"It's as good a route as any," he agreed.

"No, you seem to be clear of any influence," Neloth assured her. "Not too surprising, as it would have shown up when you read the book at Nchardak. You were affected, but gaining knowledge always does that. The point is that it's your knowledge now, and no longer dependent on the Daedric Prince."

"Now all that's left are the remaining Black Books, waiting for another ambitious fool to be lured into Hermaeus Mora's clutches. Speaking of which... I think I've located another book, if you're interested. Here, let me show you."

"Is this the last of them, or are there more after this one?" Diablita wanted to know.

"Well, you found the ones in Raven Rock Mine, and Benkongerike, we've dealt with the one at Nchardak, and the one I already had. Those and this new one are all my research indicates exist at present. Of course, Hermaeus Mora can always create more, if he chooses."

"I'll pass for now," she decided. "I've had my fill of Apocrypha, and Mora's minions."

"Are you sure? This isn't a job I can trust to Talvas, and Velith has more sense than to do that."

"That's a point. Where is she?" Clark asked.

"Looking for my former assistant, Ildari Sarothril. She was supposed to be lying dead in a sarcophagus down by the shore, but Velith found it empty. It seems that the heartstone I placed in her kept her alive, after all. I cast a divination, and determined that she was at Highpoint Tower."

"She was, but she's dead now," a voice behind them announced. "Here's the heartstone that caused all this trouble."

Vicuņa walked over to Neloth and dropped a stone into his hand. It was about the same size as a human heart, and glowed red with obvious magical power.

"So Velith is Vicuņa?" Diablita whispered in Clark's ear.

"Yes, her full name is Velith Telvanni. She's a member of Neloth's house, although she's most likely not a relative, or anything that close. Vicuņa's a sort of professional identity, as she's not just a wizard."

"Well, that probably puts an end to all these Ash Spawn attacks," Neloth decided. "Now we can do something about the house."

"By 'we', I assume you mean me?" Vicuņa asked. "And what's wrong with the house?"

Neloth pointed at the wall, where a large blister-like growth had appeared. "Ask Elynea Mothren what to do about it. She'll know."

"It looks like I have more errands to run." Vicuņa told them. "I'll see you back in Skyrim some time."

"Yes, Skyrim," Clark agreed. "I need to get back and find out what happened to Brelyna."

Diablita wanted to know how Clark knew her little friend. "I'll tell you on the way back to Raven Rock," he told her.

Diablita didn't appear to be too worried when he did. She had a lot of confidence in the Dunmer's magical abilities, even if she didn't herself. "And it sounds like that Nord you've sent with her is just what she needs as a companion. I'm sure she'll take care of the trouble without our help."

Clark wasn't so sure. And then there was Serana, and her request. He'd better get back to the mainland as soon as he could. Except that it would be Sundas by the time they got back to Raven Rock, and the ferry didn't run until the following day.

"I've got some time to kill, now, too," Diablita reminded him.

On his way to the docks to board the Northern Maiden, Clark stopped off at Glover Mallory's forge and returned his bonemold formula. Glover thanked him profusely. "If there's any of my old Thieves Guild stuff you could use, it's all down in my basement. Here's a key. Go down and help yourself."

The Blackguard's Armour was tempting, but it wouldn't fit Gilda, and Clark couldn't see himself wearing it either. The fences back in Riften would buy it, of course, but nobody else would. The only thing that had any real interest for Clark was a letter. It appeared that Glover had written it to his daughter, Sapphire, but had never sent it. "Do you mind if I deliver this for you?" he asked the smith.

"No, it would be better if it's delivered by someone who can answer her questions. So if there's anything in there you want explained, ask me now."